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Human Rights

West Bengal Laborers in Maldives Face ‘Starvation and Confinement’, Seek Repatriation

Workers from West Bengal, seeking financial stability, migrated to the Maldives but now face dire circumstances. Despite ‘promises of lucrative opportunities’, around 10 workers find themselves jobless, passport-less, and visa-less, confined to their homes. Desperate for help, they appeal for repatriation to India, feeling suffocated by their current situation.

Faisal, Masrekul, and others from Murshidabad district left for Maldives in December, paying 1 lakh 70 thousand rupees each to a contracting company. Promised resort jobs, they got only 3-4 days of unpaid work over two months, facing threats when demanding wages. Now, they suffer starvation due to lack of work, accusing a Maldivian company of unlawfully confining them to their homes.

“Around 10 labourers from various parts of Murshidabad district are trapped in the Maldives. Even if we wish to return home, exorbitant sums are demanding,” said a worker.

The workers allege that they travelled to the Maldives through an agent named Osikul Seikh of Nabagram in Murshidabad, paying approximately 1 lakh 70 thousand rupees per person. They were promised resort jobs with a salary of $400 per month, along with assurances of easy repatriation.

Faisal Zaman, a resident of Khojardanga under Nabagram police station, who is trapped in the Maldives, said, “To work in the Maldives, one requires a work permit card, usually obtained within a month of arrival. However, the agent failed to provide the permit card, as well as withholding our passports and visas. Attempts to return home are thwarted, passports withheld, and we are branded illegal immigrants.”

The workers also cite strained India-Maldive relations as detrimental to their situation.

“Workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal secure jobs effortlessly, whereas Indian workers allegedly face discrimination and even detention by the police,” said Masrekul Islam, a resident of Morcha village under Khargram police station in Murshidabad, who is trapped in the Maldives.

He told The Observer Post, “The contractor has confiscated our passport and visa. We are under house confinement. I dare not venture outside due to fear of the police. Whenever one steps out, the police demand to see the permit card, visa, and passport. Failure to produce these documents results in arrest. We are devoid of any paperwork; all documents have been seized by the contractors.”

“The workers from other countries are working freely, with no interference from the police. All the issues seem to revolve around Indians. I am borrowing food to survive, and even when I try to buy food, I am forced to resort to stealing,” Islam added.

According to the family, Osikul sent them to the Maldives with about two lakh rupees. A few weeks after arriving there, they reported various problems. They called a few days ago, saying that they were not being given work or being allowed to eat properly. They have been kept under house confinement. Later, when they tried to return home, their passports were confiscated.

“My brother was promised a decent job by the agent but was misled. They’re locked away in a room, deprived of basic necessities. Despite our pleas, the agent refuses to repatriate them or refund our money,” said Osman Ali, the brother of one of the workers.

“I went to the agent several times and asked him to bring them home. He did not listen. The agent says they can’t return any money when they get home. The agent also says to give this in writing,” Ali said.

When contacted, Agent Osikul Seikh told The Observer Post, “These are baseless allegations. I’ve sent a lot of people to work. Everyone is working. Work arrangements have also been made for Faisal and Masrekul. But they don’t want to work. They create problems themselves.”

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